Medications for Anxiety Disorders


There are a number of treatments for anxiety disorders, including different kinds of therapies and medications. Depending on the patient’s condition and on their personal preferences, they may receive one of these treatments, both of these treatments, or neither of them.
Some people who suffer from anxiety disorders avoid seeking treatment or avoid seeking medication because they are afraid of what kind of impact the medications will have on them. While starting a new medication can be scary, knowing more about common medications for anxiety disorders may help those suffering from anxiety disorders to make more informed decisions about their treatment or about whether or not to pursue treatment.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or “SSRIs,” work by preventing the body from reabsorbing serotonin, so that there is more of it for the brain to use. Serotonin is one of many neurotransmitters, chemical messengers that help the brain and body work together. Serotonin regulates mood as well as sleep-wake cycles and appetite. This once lead to a number of unpleasant side effects including drowsiness and weight-gain, but more recent drugs have been able to minimize these side effects.
Unfortunately, drowsiness and weight change are still side effects of some common SSRIs, as are trouble sleeping, trouble having sex, headaches, and nausea.
In addition to increasing the level of serotonin on the brain, SSRIs can help the brain to change the way that it functions, which is why SSRIs are often used in conjunction with therapy. SSRIs are often used to treat Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and may take around two weeks to start working.


Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors, or “SNRIS,” work similarly to SSRIs, but they also work on Norepinephrine. Norepinephrine, like serotonin, is a neurotransmitter, though its roles in the body are quite different. It is involved in the stress response, which causes panic attacks. As a result, SNRIs are sometimes prescribed to people suffering from Panic Disorder – a specific anxiety disorder characterized by frequent panic attacks that may be caused by nothing or even by the fear of a panic attack.
The side effects of SNRIs are similar to those of SSRIs, through agitation is also a side effect of SNRIs, and loss of appetite is more common. SNRIs are often slightly faster acting than SSRIs, going to work in between seven and ten days.
Similar to SSRIs, SNRIs help to change the way in which the brain works, making them a great compliment to therapy.

Anxiolytic Antidepressants

SSRIS and SNRIs are part of a larger class of drugs, called “Anxiolytic Antidepressants,” which are often used to treat people who suffer from both anxiety and depression. While often viewed as being drastically different conditions, these two disorders often happen together, and one may cause or worsen the other.
Sometimes people who suffer from both anxiety and depression are prescribed one medication to treat both anxiety and depression, though sometimes they will receive separate prescriptions for each, or one prescription that combines different medications. Many antidepressants take as much as four to six weeks to start working.
In cases where someone suffers from both anxiety and depression, the depression is often given priority. It is often the case that easing depression eases anxiety. Treatments for anxiety may also be more effective in someone who is not depressed. Depression is also seen by many to be a more life-threatening condition.

Changing or Stopping Medication

None of the medications discussed in this article need to be taken for life. There is always the option to quit taking them or to reduce the amount that is taken. There are several valid reasons to want to do this, including avoiding side effects, or pursuing other treatment. You should, however, always talk to your healthcare provider before stopping medication or changing the amount that you take. Your healthcare provider can help you to determine the best amount or can help you to gradually stop taking the medication.
However, there are also many invalid reasons to want to stop taking medication or reduce the amount. These include an end to symptoms of the disorder. Many people who suffer from anxiety disorders and related conditions take a medication for a time, feel better, and decide that they don’t need the medication any more only to see symptoms of their disorder return after quitting the medication. Your healthcare provider can not only help to determine the best amount to be prescribed or help a patient to stop taking a prescription, they can also help to determine whether quitting or reducing a medication is really the best thing.

Life with Medication

Starting a medication can be a scary thing. Fortunately, there are a large number of medications currently on the market and a patient and a healthcare provider can work together to determine the best kind of medication and the best amount to be prescribed. Through a close relationship with their healthcare provider, most patients are able to maximize benefit and minimize side effects. Through a combination of medication and therapy, many patients find that they can eventually stop taking their medications and live a normal and healthy life.

At Citizen Counselling and Coaching a number of our counsellors and coaches can provide support around anxiety. This can include identifying the obstacles to being less anxious, creating practical plans and advice through sharing techniques and models that have worked for others.
Our ‘My Anxiety Coach’ online programme and Coaching was designed for time poor busy people looking to increase their confidence and make a positive change in their lives.
Our Overcoming Anxiety page can explain more